Clay County ranked number one in North Carolina last year, based on driving fatalities relative to miles driven. There were five fatal accidents from March through September of 2011 in Clay. The ranking was determined by a AAA Carolinas analysis.
Unlike other counties, where speed caused many accidents, the older age of the drivers in Clay County correlated with the relatively high number of traffic deaths. The drivers ranged in age from 61 to 84 years, with an average of 76. One of the drivers was riding a motorcycle.
After concluding that age was a contributing factor to the traffic deaths, a North Carolina highway patrol spokesperson said that the highway patrol offered a safety driving course at the Clay County Senior Center. Trooper Jeff Gordon taught the class.
Not one of the accidents involved speed or alcohol, according to Tressie Phillips, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Highway Patrol in Bryson City. Age was the common denominator.
This was the third consecutive year that rural counties had the most accidents in the state. The ranking, reached by a AAA Carolina analysis, is figured by comparing the likelihood of types of crashes against the number of total vehicle miles driven. Even though Clay County had under 0.1 percent of total miles driven in the state, the five deadly crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled led the state with five times over the average of 1.11 deadly crashes.
Graham County proved to be the most deadly for motorcyclists. That county had more collisions, injuries, and fatal motorcycle crashes. In Graham, one scenic mountain road the motorcyclists travel is called the “tail of the dragon.” It has 11 miles of roadway with 318 curves.
In Clay County, the one motorcyclist killed last year was Frances Walter Hodges, 61.
Two-thirds of fatal crashes happen on rural roads across the nation, said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas.
“Rural counties have roads that are generally narrower, with more curves, lower shoulders, faded or non-existent road markings and less police presence than major highways,” Parsons said.
In Clay County, two people have been killed in motor vehicle crashes so far this year. Those killed are James William Haynes Jr., whose moped crashed on Highway 64 west, and Matthew Beni, who died in an accident on Fires Creek Road.
Source: Clay County Progress
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